Articles By Steven Lassan
Texas A&M and LSU are out of the SEC West title picture, but Saturday’s matchup between these two teams could be one of Week 13’s most entertaining games.
Both teams should be rested after bye weeks last Saturday, and there’s added importance due to bowl positioning.
At 8-2, Texas A&M is still alive for a BCS bowl. If the Aggies win out, they will likely play in the Sugar Bowl as the replacement for the SEC champion. Winning the final two games of the year isn’t a guarantee for Texas A&M, especially with back-to-back road trips.
LSU is likely out of the mix for a BCS bowl, but the Tigers have a chance to finish 2013 on a high note. And most importantly, with wins against Texas A&M and Arkansas, LSU will earn its fifth straight season of at least nine victories.
LSU leads the overall series 28-20-3. The Tigers have won the last two meetings against Texas A&M, with the Aggies’ last victory over LSU coming in 1995. This is only the second meeting between LSU and Texas A&M as SEC foes. This emerging rivalry will get some extra attention in 2014, as these programs are scheduled to play on Thanksgiving night in College Station.
Texas A&M at LSU
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: LSU -4.5
Three Things to Watch
Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
LSU’s defense managed to solve Texas A&M’s high-powered offense last year. The Tigers held the Aggies to just 19 points (second-lowest total of the season), while quarterback Johnny Manziel recorded only 303 total yards and no touchdowns. LSU sacked Manziel three times and recorded eight tackles for a loss on the Aggies’ offense. While the Tigers kept Texas A&M’s offense in check last year, this unit is undergoing some major renovations. Through 10 games, LSU’s defense is having an uncharacteristic season, ranking ninth in the SEC against the run and recording only 12 sacks in conference play. The Tigers’ secondary has fared better than the rush defense, ranking sixth in the SEC in pass defense, but this unit has allowed 10 passing scores in six conference games. Manziel is still a dangerous runner (5.6 ypc), but the sophomore has made strides as a passer and is more patient in the pocket in 2013. LSU’s defense was able to use its speed and athleticism on the line to keep Manziel in the pocket last year and limit his rushing attempts. With all of the personnel losses in the front seven, can the Tigers replicate the same gameplan? Or will an improved passing game from Manziel result in more big plays to receiver Mike Evans?
Texas A&M’s run defense vs. Jeremy Hill
Texas A&M’s rush defense has been gashed by opposing teams all season. Will that change on Saturday? The Aggies are allowing 223.5 rushing yards per game in SEC play. Auburn rushed for 379 yards against Texas A&M on Oct. 19, and only one opponent in conference action has been held under 100 yards by the Aggies (Vanderbilt). LSU goes four-deep at running back, and J.C. Copeland is one of the best fullbacks in the nation. Sophomore Jeremy Hill leads the team with 964 yards and 13 scores, but Terrence Magee (407 yards) and Kenny Hilliard (271 yards) should expect to see snaps on Saturday. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has a tough choice. Does he load the box to slow down LSU’s rushing attack? If the Aggies devote more attention to stop the run, the secondary will be vulnerable against the Tigers’ receiving corps.
LSU’s wide receivers versus Texas A&M’s secondary
These two teams aren’t short on potential All-SEC talent, but Texas A&M’s defense against LSU’s offense is a mismatch. New coordinator Cam Cameron has made a big difference in improving the Tigers’ offense, which includes the development of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The senior has five of his seven interceptions in two out of his last three games. However, Mettenberger wasn’t awful against Alabama (16 of 23, 241 yards) and was outstanding in a 44-41 loss against Georgia in September (23 of 37, 372 yards, three touchdowns). In addition to Cameron’s play-calling and Mettenberger’s development, another key reason for the improvement in LSU’s passing attack is the one-two punch at receiver in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. This duo has combined for 114 catches for 2,023 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Texas A&M’s secondary has struggled just as much as the run defense, ranking last in SEC-only games in pass yards allowed per game (278.7). Can cornerbacks De’Vante Harris and Deshazor Everett matchup with Beckham and Landry? And their job could be even tougher if the pass rush doesn’t get pressure on Mettenberger.
Key Players: Isaiah Golden, NG/Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M
This true freshman duo on Texas A&M’s defense will eventually contend for All-SEC honors. However, in 2013, this inexperienced duo is what the Aggies have to rely on to slow opposing ground attacks. Golden and Claiborne have held their own this season, with Claiborne ranking second on the team with 69 tackles. Stopping LSU’s rushing attack starts up front with Golden and continues with Claiborne in the middle. If Golden can get a good push, the Aggies can slow down the Tigers’ ground game. It’s a tough assignment, but Golden and Claiborne could hold the key to a Texas A&M victory.
Behind quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans, Texas A&M is going to score. The Aggies have scored 50 points in three consecutive games and should push 40 this Saturday. However, with Texas A&M’s struggling defense, Manziel essentially has to play a mistake-free game and score every time the offense has the ball. LSU will move the ball easily on the Aggies, but the difference in the game is the Tigers’ defense. This isn’t a vintage LSU defense. However, there’s still some talent, which earns just enough stops for the Tigers to win on Saturday.
Prediction: LSU 38, Texas A&M 34
Penn State and Nebraska are in the midst of semi-disappointing seasons, so it’s appropriate both teams meet in late November looking to get back on track.
The Cornhuskers lost 41-28 to Michigan State last week, which essentially clinched the Legends Division for the Spartans. In the loss, Nebraska outgained Michigan State 392 to 361 but committed five turnovers.
The Nittany Lions lost 24-10 to Minnesota in Week 11 but rebounded by beating Purdue 45-21. Penn State went 8-4 in Bill O’Brien’s first season and could finish with that mark once again, provided the Nittany Lions beat Nebraska and win at Wisconsin on Nov. 30. While finishing 8-4 once again is a difficult assignment, Penn State had to replace a handful of key players from its 2012 squad, and true freshman Christian Hackenberg is still learning the ropes at quarterback.
Nebraska owns an 8-7 edge in the overall series against Penn State. The Cornhuskers have claimed the last three games against the Nittany Lions, including a 17-14 victory in Happy Valley in 2011. Nebraska won 32-23 in Lincoln last year.
Penn State vs. Nebraska
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -2
Penn State’s Key to Victory: Mistake-free game from QB Christian Hackenberg
In last week’s loss against Michigan State, Nebraska committed five turnovers and lost 41-28. But that’s not the biggest concern for coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers have lost the turnover margin in each of their last five games, which was also a significant factor in a loss to Minnesota. In Penn State’s last two losses (Minnesota, Ohio State), Bill O’Brien’s team had a negative turnover margin. In their last two wins, the Nittany Lions were a +1 in turnover margin. Both teams have a freshman quarterback, and both plan to give a heavy dose of the rushing attack on offense. But it’s no secret there’s not much separating these teams. With that in mind, a turnover or two could swing this game in favor of one side.
Nebraska’s Key to Victory: Establish Ameer Abdullah
Penn State had to replace four starters in its front seven this preseason, and at times, this unit has struggled to stop the run. After six Big Ten games, Penn State ranks seventh in the conference in run defense, allowing 172.2 yards per game. Due to allowing 408 rushing yards against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions’ defensive numbers are slightly skewed, but the front seven was gashed by UCF for 219 yards, 150 against Indiana and 195 versus Minnesota. Michigan State’s front seven is arguably the best in the Big Ten, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah managed 123 yards on 22 attempts. With freshman Tommy Armstrong starting once again this Saturday, Abdullah needs to carry the offense. If the junior has a strong performance, it will help relieve some of the pressure on Nebraska’s young quarterback.
Key Player: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
As a freshman, it’s no surprise Armstrong has experienced his share of ups and downs. Through seven games, he is completing 53 percent of his passes, while tossing seven picks and seven scores. Armstrong struggled in last week’s loss to Michigan State (9 of 21), but the Cornhuskers won’t have to rely solely on his arm to win, especially with Abdullah performing at a high level. Keep an eye on Armstrong’s mobility this Saturday. The freshman rushed for 69 yards in a win over Northwestern, and after Penn State allowed Minnesota’s Philip Nelson to run for 40 yards and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to run for 68, Armstrong should have opportunities to make plays with his legs.
Expect a close one between these two teams on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s offense is limited with quarterback Tommy Armstrong still learning on the job, and Penn State’s defense ranks ninth in Big Ten-only games. Whichever team can get its rushing game on track, while limiting turnovers will have a slight edge. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 at home in Big Ten play this year, but an improving Cornhusker defense is just enough to give Bo Pelini’s team a slight edge.
Prediction: Nebraska 27, Penn State 24
West Virginia and TCU are arguably the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 this year.
Losing to Kansas will prevent West Virginia from playing in a bowl for the first time since 2001, and the Mountaineers need to beat Iowa State in the season finale to avoid a 4-8 mark.
TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12.
However, the Horned Frogs are 4-7 headed into their season finale against Baylor next week.
Both programs have a difficult transition to the Big 12, so it will take time to recruit and build the program to compete consistently for conference titles.
West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ve been more surprised with TCU’s decline this season. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for West Virginia, and that’s exactly what has played out in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen is feeling a lot of pressure, but I think it’s too early to put the third-year coach on the hot seat. The Mountaineers had to move to a tougher conference, and only 11 starters are back from last season. West Virginia has lost three conference games by 10 points or less and most of this team returns in 2014, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Morgantown. TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs have dropped four out of their last five games, with Iowa State and Kansas representing the only conference wins for Gary Patterson’s team. Much like West Virginia, TCU has been dealing with a handful of injuries and much of this team’s core returns for 2014. Maybe the preseason expectations were too high for the Horned Frogs, but it seems this team has too much talent to be finishing 4-8. I expect both teams to rebound next year. However, it will be a long offseason for both coaches and programs.
To me it's TCU. I didn't have high expectations for West Virginia to begin with because this was a team that lost a ton of offensive talent to the NFL and needed every bit of it last season just to finish 7-6. TCU, on the other hand, was returning most of its starting defense, a unit that finished among the top 30 teams in the nation in 2012 in three (total, scoring, rushing) of the four major categories. I thought the Horned Frogs were a darkhorse Big 12 contender this fall, but Gary Patterson's team just hasn't been able to put it all together. TCU isn't a bad team by any stretch, with just three double-digit losses and none by more than 14 points. But four losses in its last five games, two of them by a combined five points, means no bowl for the Horned Frogs for the first time in nine seasons. Patterson knew things would be tougher for his team when TCU joined the Big 12 last season. I just don't think even he expected this season to play out like this, not with all of the experience that was returning. There's enough talent on the roster for TCU to rebound in 2014. But while Horned Frogs fans are hoping that the third time around the Big 12 is the charm for their team, it's no stretch to say that the challenge that awaits for Patterson and his coaching staff is something entirely new.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Both team's seasons are surprising, though both have dealt with plenty of roster tumult. TCU has had Casey Pachall in and out of the lineup, defensive end Devonte Fields essentially has been a nonfactor, and linebacker Joel Hasley left the team before the season. West Virginia has dealt with similar injuries all season, particularly to veterans on the defense. If this makes sense, I’d say TCU’s 2013 season is the bigger surprise, but the trajectory for West Virginia is the bigger disappointment. TCU was bound to stumble moving into the Big 12, though I thought the offense would do just enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive. It’s certainly better with Pachall back, but 4-7 is an awfully big fall. Pachall returned and the Horned Frogs offense put 27 on West Virginia, 21 on Iowa State and 31 on Kansas State. That’s enough to prove that had everyone stayed healthy, TCU’s probably looking at seven or eight wins. But West Virginia’s fall has been more dramatic. This was once one of the most consistent programs in the country, but the Mountaineers have gone 6-13 since Oct. 13, 2012. The program needed to flee the Big East, but it was clearly ill-equipped for the Big 12. This decline in 2013, though, makes me wonder if West Virginia will ever get back to where it was under Rich Rodriguez. Momentum is gone. The team has no identity. And recruiting is going to have some major hurdles. West Virginia is too far from Texas and doesn’t play in the Southeast, particularly Florida where the Mountaineers have had success. Rebuilding is going to be tough.
With just two weeks of regular season action left, the 2013 college football season is quickly coming to a close. There’s plenty of marquee games remaining, but it’s crunch time for teams to get bowl eligible, along with ones chasing a conference title.
Week 13 has plenty of intrigue, starting in the Big 12 with Baylor-Oklahoma State and continuing in the SEC with Texas A&M-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M.
In the Pac-12, USC hopes to continue to bolster the case of Ed Orgeron for the full-time job, while Arizona State-UCLA should decide the South Division title.
Athlon’s editors are back with another edition of the upset picks, and there are plenty of teams on alert this week.
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.
College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ole Miss (+2.5) over Missouri
Missouri needs to win its final two games to reach the SEC Championship, but the Tigers have a tough remaining schedule, with a road trip to Ole Miss this Saturday, followed by a home game against Texas A&M on Nov. 30. Missouri is getting quarterback James Franklin back after missing four starts due to injury. But even with Franklin back in the lineup, I think this is a tough matchup for the Tigers. Ole Miss’ passing attack ranks second in SEC games (averaging 314.7 yards per game), with a plethora of weapons at the disposal of quarterback Bo Wallace. Missouri’s defensive line should have an edge against the Rebels’ offensive front, but Ole Miss can counter with quick passes against a secondary that ranks last in the SEC against the pass. The Rebels have won four in a row and lost by eight points to Auburn and three to Texas A&M. Hugh Freeze’s team had to deal with a handful of injuries on both sides of the ball earlier in the year, but Ole Miss is getting healthy and will upset Missouri on Saturday night.
Mark Ross: Oklahoma (+3.5) over Kansas State
Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder know each other very well, with Stoops having played for and coached under Snyder for more than 15 years. Now, as head coaches in the Big 12, this represents the 10th head-to-head meeting between the two, with Stoops holding a 7-2 edge. Kansas State won last season's meeting, snapping a five-game losing streak to Oklahoma in the process. Now the Wildcats are looking to end a four-game skid against the Sooners in Manhattan, a streak that goes back to 1996. The home team is favored, but Oklahoma is ranked and rebounded nicely from its disappointing showing against undefeated Baylor. These teams are similar in many ways, not surprising considering the coaching ties, but I think the Sooners are just a little bit better on the defensive end and that will be enough to allow the pupil to claim victory over his mentor.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oklahoma State (+9.5) over Baylor
If there is a team and a situation that will give Baylor issues it is this season it is Oklahoma State in Stillwater. With potentially bad weather coming late Friday night, this game could be played more in the trenches than the Bears may want. Baylor isn't a finesse team by any stretch as both lines of scrimmage are strong at the point of attack. But a sloppy, slow, grind-it-out pace is the only chance anyone has at stopping Art Briles' explosive offense. With a power running game, maturing quarterback and solid defense, the Pokes have a real shot at slowing the tempo and throwing enough body blows to win. Yes, that's right, Mike Gundy may be looking to slow the game down this weekend. If the projected snow sticks Friday night (unlikely), all the better for Okie State.
David Fox (@DavidFox615): Purdue (+7) over Illinois
I picked one of the other worst teams in a major conference to get its first league win with the Kansas upset of West Virginia. I’m going to go to the dregs of the Big Ten to pick Purdue to pick up Darrell Hazel’s first league win. Illinois’ offense is dangerous, but this is a team with little left to play for. Narrowing the gap against Ohio State on multiple occasions still ended with a 60-35 loss an infighting on the coaching staff on the sideline. Purdue is awful, too, but the offense is slowly getting better. Freshman quarterback Danny Etling completed a season-high 63.6 percent of his passes for 223 yards on the road at Penn State last week. The Boilermakers haven’t rushed for 100 yards since Sept. 28, but Illinois’ defense isn’t holding anyone back.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Oklahoma State (+10) over Baylor
The Bears average an NCAA-best 61 points and 685 yards per game, boasting the nation's third-best passing offense and the ninth-ranked rushing offense. Bryce Petty averages 19 yards per completion, as he leads the country in passing efficiency with 24 touchdowns to just one interception. Given those stats, how could anyone pick against Baylor? Let's remember that this game is at the hostile venue of Boone Pickens Stadium, where the Bears are 0-9 since joining the Big 12. In fact, Baylor hasn't won in Stillwater in 70 years. I believe this streak will continue thanks to Oklahoma State's strength on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys pair an offense that averages 40 points per game with a defense that leads the country with 19 interceptions. In addition to their talents at creating turnovers, Mike Gundy's defense is adept on third downs and in the red zone. Their defense in 12th in the nation on third-downs, allowing conversions only 32 percent of the time. They are ninth in the NCAA in red-zone defense, giving up just 15 touchdowns in 34 red zone drives. While Baylor has converted 52.4 percent of third downs this year, they have converted just 41 percent the last two games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Injuries will really hamper the Bears in this game. They are without WR Tevin Reese and starting LT Spencer Drango, while running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are questionable after missing last week against Texas Tech. Over the last two weeks, Bryce Petty has posted his two worst completion percentages of the season. Things won't get any easier for the 4th-ranked Bears under the lights in Stillwater.
The ACC features only four matchups with teams in conference play this Saturday, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina step out of the ACC for a non-conference affair.
With the Atlantic Division title settled, the focus of the next two Saturdays in the ACC turns to the Coastal. Duke holds the edge over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami, but the Blue Devils still have two tough games remaining. Duke travels to Wake Forest this Saturday, followed by a game against rival North Carolina next week.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse square off on Saturday, with the winner earning bowl eligibility. Miami hopes to snap a three-game losing streak with Virginia visiting Sun Life Stadium, and Boston College travels to Maryland.
It’s a light slate of action, but the ACC should have a little more clarity to its conference title and bowl picture by Sunday.
ACC Week 13 Game Power Rankings
1. Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
It’s odd the game of the week features two 5-5 teams. But this game has plenty at stake for both programs, as the winner of this one will get bowl eligible. Pittsburgh has won seven out of the last eight matchups with Syracuse. However, the Orange won 14-13 at home last year. This season’s meeting could be another low-scoring affair, with both teams ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring offense. Pittsburgh is averaging 21.8 points a game in conference play, while Syracuse is last at 12.3. Protecting quarterback Tom Savage is the top priority for the Panthers, especially against a Syracuse defense that has generated 30 sacks this year. If Savage has time to throw, big plays should be there for receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. The Orange are averaging only 174.9 passing yards a game this year, and it’s critical for the rushing attack to get on track. In Syracuse’s five wins, it is averaging 245.6 rushing yards a contest. Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the ACC against the run, but tackle Aaron Donald is one of the league’s best and will be a tough matchup for the Orange’s offensive line.
2. Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Duke is just two wins away from playing in its first ACC Championship. But the Blue Devils won’t have an easy path to a Coastal Division title, as rival North Carolina awaits next Saturday, while Winston-Salem has been a challenging place for this program in recent years. Wake Forest has won 12 out of the last 13 meetings against Duke, but the Blue Devils won 34-27 in Winston-Salem last year. The Demon Deacons are still without receiver Michael Campanaro, who suffered a collarbone injury in the loss against Syracuse. Without Campanaro, Wake Forest scored only three points in a 59-3 loss to Florida State. Duke’s defense isn’t as dominant as the Seminoles, but this unit has stepped up in the second half of games, holding Miami to just seven points last week and 10 to NC State in a 38-20 victory on Nov. 9. The Blue Devils would like to get quarterback Anthony Boone back on track this Saturday, as the junior has seven interceptions and zero touchdowns over his last three games.
3. Boston College (+1) at Maryland (3:30 ET, RSN)
Both teams picked up the all-important sixth win last week, and with the ACC likely to have more bowl-eligible teams than available spots, the last two games of the year for Boston College and Maryland are all about improving their bowl position. The Eagles have won three in a row, largely due to the play of running back Andre Williams. The senior gashed NC State for 339 yards and two touchdowns and has at least 166 yards in each of his last four games. Maryland ranks ninth in ACC-only games against the run, and two out of their last three opponents have rushed for at least 242 yards. The Terrapins snapped a three-game losing streak last week, defeating Virginia Tech 27-24 in Blacksburg. Quarterback C.J. Brown carried the offense for Maryland last Saturday, recording 257 of the team’s 319 yards. Boston College ranks last in the ACC against the pass, so there will be opportunities for Brown to make plays through the air. With both teams limited on offense, the turnover battle will be crucial. The Terrapins rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (-2.0 per game), while the Eagles are +4 this season.
4. Virginia (+20) at Miami (Noon ET, ESPNU)
After a 7-0 start, Miami has been trending in the wrong direction with three consecutive losses. The Hurricanes are likely out of the Coastal Division title picture, but winning their last two games can help improve their bowl position. Virginia also enters this matchup looking for something positive, as the Cavaliers have dropped seven consecutive games. Miami’s defense has allowed 40 points in three-straight contests, but Virginia’s offense is averaging just 16.7 points a game. The strength of the Cavaliers’ offense resides with running back Kevin Parks (4.3 ypc, 10 TDs), while quarterback David Watford has to pickup his play to have any shot at the upset. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games, and even with receiver Phillip Dorsett once again this week, the senior passer could reach that mark against a Virginia secondary ranked 10th in the ACC. Although Miami is a 20-point favorite this week, the Cavaliers have won three in a row in this series, including a 41-40 shootout in Charlottesville last season.
5. Old Dominion (+17.5) at North Carolina (Noon ET, RSN)
The Tar Heels hope to continue their late-season surge against a dangerous non-conference matchup in Old Dominion. The Monarchs are transitioning to the FBS and lost 35-24 at Pittsburgh earlier this year. Old Dominion’s offense is led by junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke – who has thrown for 3,892 yards and 32 touchdowns this season – and four players with at least 40 receptions. North Carolina’s secondary ranks fourth in ACC games against the pass, holding three of its last four opponents under 205 passing yards. Getting pressure on Heinicke will be critical, and senior end Kareem Martin is coming off one of the best defensive performances of his career (8 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF). Even if the Tar Heels struggle to keep Heinicke in check for all four quarters, the offense should have no trouble moving the ball on Old Dominion. The Monarchs are allowing 427.7 yards per game this season, and five opponents have scored at least 30 points. With a win over ODU, North Carolina will earn bowl eligibility, along with its first five-game winning streak since 2001.
6. East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Wolfpack step out of conference play this Saturday, hoping to break a six-game losing streak with a matchup against in-state foe East Carolina. Under first-year coach Dave Doeren, NC State has struggled at times on both sides of the ball, and the defense is reeling after allowing 420 rushing yards to Boston College last Saturday. The Pirates will present a different challenge, as quarterback Shane Carden will test a Wolfpack secondary ranked third in the ACC against the pass. Carden has 29 touchdown tosses this year and is completing 72.5 percent of his throws. The senior is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including receiver Justin Hardy (87 catches) and running back Vintavious Cooper (754 yards). If East Carolina can jump out to an early lead, it could spell trouble for NC State. The Wolfpack has struggled to get consistent quarterback play, and the Pirates are limiting opponents to three yards per carry. With Brandon Mitchell questionable to play once again, Pete Thomas is expected to start under center. However, NC State will likely focus its offensive attack around running back Shadrach Thornton (606 yards, four touchdowns), while mobile quarterback Bryant Shirreffs should also see time under center. East Carolina already knocked off one ACC team (North Carolina) and lost by five against Virginia Tech. Can the Pirates go 2-1 against the ACC this year?
7. Idaho (+57) at Florida State (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
The Seminoles have three remaining obstacles to play for the national championship, and Jimbo Fisher’s team shouldn’t have little trouble with Idaho this Saturday. The Vandals were left without a conference home in 2013, forcing a brutal schedule as an Independent. Idaho’s only victory was a two-point win over Temple and lost its two games against BCS opponents this season by a combined score of 101-14. The Vandals also have seven losses by at least 20 points. Florida State’s priorities this week should be pretty simple: Get out of this game healthy and get the backups – especially Sean Maguire at quarterback – valuable reps.
8. The Citadel (+40) vs. Clemson (12:00 ET, ESPN3)
This is the first meeting between The Citadel and Clemson since 2008, but this matchup will turn out like most of the previous games in this series – a Clemson blowout. The Tigers have outscored the Bulldogs 83-17 in their last two meetings, and The Citadel is 0-16 against ranked FBS teams. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd injured his collarbone against Georgia Tech last week, but the senior is expected to play on Saturday. This will be Boyd’s final home game, and the senior has helped to lead this program to 30 wins over the last three years. Receiver Sammy Watkins still has one more year of eligibility left, but he is expected to enter the NFL Draft. Boyd and Watkins won’t play too long, while both players should put up big numbers in their final Death Valley appearance.
9. Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Georgia Tech (1:30 ET, ESPN3)
Georgia Tech is smarting just a bit after a 55-31 loss to Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets should easily rebound with Alabama A&M coming to Atlanta on Saturday. With a win over the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech will earn its fifth season of at least seven victories under coach Paul Johnson. And while this game means nothing to the ACC title picture, there could be some scoreboard watching on Saturday, as the Yellow Jackets need Wake Forest to beat Duke to stay alive for the Coastal title. Alabama A&M is 4-7 this year, and its last matchup against a FBS team was in 2012, losing 51-7 at Auburn.
ACC Week 13 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Duke is on the doorstep of its first Coastal Division title. The Blue Devils need to win their last two games to reach Charlotte, which certainly won’t be easy with matchups against Wake Forest and North Carolina up next. Even though Duke has won six in a row, its passing attack has struggled recently. Boone has tossed seven picks in his last three games and has not topped 139 passing yards in each contest during that span. Backup Brandon Connette has accounted for five touchdowns in his last two games, and the junior will share snaps on Saturday. Boone is the better passer between the two quarterbacks, and it’s important for the junior to get back on track after a subpar three-game stretch. Wake Forest’s secondary is holding opponents to 214.8 yards per game but has allowed 16 passing touchdowns.
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Maryland’s defense has allowed two out of its last three opponents to rush for at least 242 yards. And there’s an even bigger threat on the ground looming this Saturday, as Boston College running back Andre Williams visits College Park off a 339-yard performance against NC State. Farrand and nose tackle Darius Kilgo have to win the battle at the point of attack if the Terrapins want to slow down the Eagles’ ground game. Farrand leads the team with 75 tackles, while Kilgo has five tackles for a loss and two sacks this year. If Maryland’s front seven struggles, Williams is in for another huge day on the ground.
Macky MacPherson, C, Syracuse
MacPherson and guards Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson have a tough assignment this Saturday. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been one of the ACC’s top defenders this season, and the senior has dominated opposing offensive lines for 42 tackles (22.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. Donald also has four forced fumbles in 2013. MacPherson is one of the ACC’s top centers, with 35 starts under his belt the last three years. Syracuse’s offense is dependent on getting its rushing game on track, which requires MacPherson to keep Donald under wraps.
Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
Can the Cavaliers stop a seven-game losing streak this Saturday? It’s unlikely Virginia can win at Miami, but recent series history favors the Cavaliers in this matchup. The Hurricanes allowed 358 rushing yards in last week’s loss to Duke, while giving up 13 scores on the ground in their last three games. With the Cavaliers struggling to establish a consistent passing attack, it’s critical for Parks to have a huge performance. The junior rushed for 100 yards in a 45-14 loss to North Carolina and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season.
Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
If NC State is going to stop a six-game losing streak, it has to find a way to slow down East Carolina’s passing attack. The Pirates have thrown for 30 touchdowns this year and average 341.2 yards per game through the air. Shane Carden is one of the top non-BCS passers in college football, and receiver Justin Hardy is a handful for opposing defensive backs (87 catches). Tocho has started the last five games and has 22 tackles and two interceptions this season. The true freshman needs to hold his own on Saturday, as he will picked on by Carden and the East Carolina receivers.
ACC Week 13 Predictions
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Citadel (+40) at Clemson||Clemson 56-7||Clemson 45-10||Clemson 55-7||Clemson 51-3|
|Old Dominion (+17.5) at UNC||UNC 28-17||UNC 38-17||UNC 45-20||UNC 38-24|
|Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest||Duke 35-14||Duke 34-21||Duke 27-20||Duke 28-20|
|Virginia (+20) at Miami||Miami 28-7||Miami 31-20||Miami 38-17||Miami 38-17|
|Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse||Pitt 28-24||Syracuse 30-28||Pitt 27-24||Pitt 31-24|
|East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State||ECU 35-28||ECU 35-21||ECU 34-27||ECU 34-21|
|Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Ga. Tech||Ga. Tech 56-10||Ga. Tech 42-10||Ga. Tech 58-7||Ga. Tech 56-0|
|Boston College (+1) at Maryland||BC 28-24||BC 27-24||BC 24-20||Maryland 21-17|
|Idaho (+57) at Florida State||FSU 63-10||FSU 34-3||FSU 65-3||FSU 51-0|
With just three weeks left in the regular season, the SEC has nine bowl-eligible teams. And the conference could add to that total if Tennessee wins its final two games, and if Florida or Mississippi State can get to six victories.
Florida has been one of the biggest disappointments in the SEC this year. The Gators have been dealing with a rash of injuries, but this program recruits at a high level and a 5-7 mark should never happen in Gainesville.
Mississippi State is one of the SEC’s toughest jobs, but coach Dan Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to three consecutive bowl games.
However, with two games remaining, Mississippi State’s postseason streak is in jeopardy. The Bulldogs are favored to beat Arkansas but have to play rival Ole Miss in the season finale.
Will Florida and Mississippi State get bowl eligible in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
No, I don’t think either team will get bowl eligible. It seems odd to have this conversation about Florida, especially at the level that this program recruits. However, the Gators have experienced a rash of injuries this year, and rival Florida State is clearly one of the top-two teams in the nation. Florida will get by Georgia Southern, but it will take a miracle to beat the Seminoles. Mississippi State has a better chance to reach the six-win mark than Florida. The Bulldogs are a slight favorite over Arkansas and host rival Ole Miss in the finale. Mississippi State has won four in a row at home against the Rebels, but I think Ole Miss will break that streak this season. The Bulldogs have a better chance than Florida to get to the six-win mark. However, I think both teams come up short this season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
To quote a great movie, I will say "erroneous, on both counts." The Gators argument is easy — Florida has to beat No. 2 Florida State. And unless Jameis Winston — and every member of the starting defense — gets suspended, that won't happen. The Seminoles are in no danger of losing in Gainesville and therefore the Gators finish 5-7 and out of the postseason. The Bulldogs of Starkville are in a slightly better situation as Arkansas in Little Rock and Mississippi at home are both winnable games for Dan Mullen. State, generally under Mullen, has won games they are supposed to and lost games across the board as underdogs. Anything can happen in a historic rivalry like the Egg Bowl, especially at home for MSU, but Ole Miss will be a solid favorite to win that game. A split to finish the year doesn't get Hail State into the postseason, so I will say no on both counts.
If either has a shot, it's Mississippi State, but I'm not convinced it's going to happen. Both teams are 4-6 with two games left, meaning six wins is a possibility, but not a reality, certainly for the Gators. Let's face it, if Florida loses Saturday at home to Georgia Southern then Will Muschamp may as well just go ahead and pack up his office belongings as soon as the game is over. Either way, I have a hard time seeing this Gators team beating Florida State the following week, as the Seminoles have their eyes firmly fixed on getting to the BCS National Championship Game and have Idaho (1-9) as a warm up. That leaves us with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs should get their fifth win with relative ease, even on the road at Arkansas, meaning their postseason fate will come down to the Egg Bowl. The game's in Starkville, but Ole Miss is a top-25 team (at least this week) and has three more wins than the Rebels. Hugh Freeze beat Dan Mullen in their first head-to-head meeting last season and unfortunately, I see a similar result coming next week. Sorry Mississippi State fans, I don't see a bowl bid being part of your Thanksgiving feast this season.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
No and no. The only question will be the kind of pressure both coaches will be under if and when both teams miss a bowl. Despite the close game with South Carolina, Florida losing to Georgia Southern is a more likely outcome than the Gators reaching a bowl game. At least Mississippi State faces the worst team in the SEC (Arkansas) and then gets its top rival at home. The finale against Ole Miss is going to be huge for Mississippi State and not just because of bowl implications. Dan Mullen still has never won a game against a major opponent, and I think we can call Ole Miss, with seven wins and all the program momentum, a major opponent for Mullen. I understand Mississippi State wants more out of its football program, but going to bowls every year is good for Mississippi State, especially in the gauntlet of the SEC West these days. If Mullen stops making bowl games, he’s going to be in trouble.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I’ll start with Florida. The answer there is a quick no. Florida should take care of business against Georgia Southern on Saturday, but Florida State is a different animal. The Seminoles will be too much for Florida even with the game being played in Gainesville. Florida State has too much talent and depth for Florida to be able to pull off the upset, which will leave Florida with its first losing record since 1979. Mississippi State has a realistic opportunity to reach the postseason. The Bulldogs are a slight favorite to beat Arkansas this week, although it won’t be easy to do in Little Rock. The Ole Miss game will be the biggest test for Mississippi State. Ole Miss handled Mississippi State 41-24 in Oxford last year. Can the Bulldogs get revenge this season? In the end, I’ll say no. Both teams should be able to score on each other. I’ll take Hugh Freeze’s group at Ole Miss to put up more points than Mississippi State and keep the Bulldogs out of the postseason for only the second time under Dan Mullen.
Midweek MAC games in November are must-see television for starving college football fans.
However, midweek games can be tough on attendance, but that’s the trade-off for the added exposure on television.
The crowd for Tuesday night’s Miami (Ohio)-Buffalo game was incredibly small, which is no surprise considering how bad the RedHawks have been this year (0-11).
Here are a few crowd shots from last night’s game:
Texas Tech is set to close out its regular season schedule with a trip to Texas on Thanksgiving night. And the Red Raiders will break out an alternate uniform against the Longhorns, unveiling a “Lone Star” look for next Thursday’s game.
Here’s a look at Texas Tech’s uniforms for the Nov. 28 game:
See more photos of Texas Tech's Lone Star uniforms here.
Ohio State-Michigan is one of the top rivalry games in college football each season, and the Buckeyes plan to wear an alternate uniform for this year’s meeting.
Ohio State will wear all white uniforms, which are a tribute to the 1950 “snow bowl” game played between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
Here are the Ohio State rivalry uniforms for next week’s game versus Michigan:
Fresno State and Northern Illinois are a combined 19-0 heading into Week 13. The Bulldogs rank No. 15 in the latest release of the BCS standings, while the Huskies check in at No. 16.
With both programs in the top 16 of the BCS standings, the opportunity is there for a bid to one of college football’s premier bowl games.
Northern Illinois played Florida State in the Orange Bowl last year and lost 31-10. Fresno State has never played in a BCS bowl.
Both teams will be favored in their remaining games, but the path isn’t completely clear. Northern Illinois has to play at Toledo, and assuming the Huskies win the division, will play Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC title game. Fresno State plays at San Jose State in the regular-season finale, followed by a potential rematch against Boise State in the Mountain West title game.
Fresno State and Northern Illinois: Does either team deserve a spot in a BCS bowl?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Tough to say. For the most part, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have dominated within their conferences. The Huskies handled a solid Ball State team 48-27 last week and defeated Eastern Michigan and UMass by a combined score of 122-39. The Bulldogs had to withstand a late rally to beat Hawaii, but Tim DeRuyter’s team has only two other conference games decided by a touchdown or less. What’s lacking on both resumes is a marquee non-conference win. Yes, Northern Illinois beat Iowa and Fresno State beat Rutgers, but both of those BCS teams are hovering around .500. Looking at the BCS standings, Arizona State, Wisconsin, LSU and Louisville are all ranked behind Fresno State and Northern Illinois. I think all four of those teams are better than the Bulldogs or Huskies, but that’s not what the BCS is designed to take into account. With the limitations on how many teams per conference, and Louisville and UCF – the frontrunners to win the American Athletic title – behind both teams, Northern Illinois and Fresno State have done all that has been asked of them to make a BCS game. I don’t think either team is one of the top 10-15 in the nation. But in this setup, if Northern Illinois and Fresno State win out, one will be in a BCS bowl.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer I suppose is supposed to be no. Whether Fresno State or Northern Illinois reaches the BCS, that team will be one of the worst non-major conference teams to play in the BCS, joining 2012 Northern Illinois and 2007 Hawaii. Neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois are nearly as good as the Boise State, TCU or Utah teams that reached the BCS in years past. Still, I’ve always been a proponent of seeing non-AQs in major bowl games. We’re supposed to believe a bowl game is a reward, and an undefeated season deserve a reward even if it occurs in the MAC or Mountain West. I know many people yawn at non-traditional powers in the BCS, but I like seeing an undefeated non-AQ team get its shot against one of the big boys — even if some of them in routs.
As two of the remaining undefeated teams left standing in college football, the Bulldogs and Huskies are both having impressive seasons. Each has a legitimate shot of running the table, including a win in their respective conference championship games. From a resume standpoint, neither Fresno State nor Northern Illinois has really beaten anyone of significance this season. The Bulldogs have a non-conference win over Rutgers, who is just 5-4 and fighting for bowl eligibility, and have already beaten Boise State once. The Bulldogs could play the Broncos again for the Mountain West Conference title, but even two victories over Boise doesn't look as impressive as it would in years past. The Huskies have run roughshod over their Mid-American Conference competition to this point, but their other wins have come against Iowa and Purdue, who are a combined 7-13 overall and 3-9 in the Big Ten, and 1-9 Idaho.
However, this may not matter, as long as either the Bulldogs or Huskies ends up running the table and finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings or in the top 16 and ahead of a conference champion from one of the automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences — AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. The former is very unlikely to happen, but don't count out the latter as UCF is in the driver's seat to win the AAC. The Knights currently sit 18th in the BCS Standings and are behind both Fresno State (15th) and Northern Illinois (16th). So does either team "deserve" a spot in a BCS bowl? Honestly, no, but because of the BCS system and the numerous twists and turns that have already shaped this season, the path for either the Bulldogs or Huskies to get one of the 10 highly covered, not to mention profitable, BCS bowl spots is clearly laid out. It also appears to be realistic goal for Fresno State or Northern Illinois to attain, and in the end that's all that matters to either "mid-major" program.
USC knocked off Stanford 20-17 on Saturday, improving to 5-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
The Trojans’ only loss under Orgeron’s watch was a 14-10 defeat at Notre Dame.
It’s clear USC is playing with a renewed sense of energy and optimism under Orgeron, which has only complicated athletic director Pat Haden’s decision.
Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin after USC’s 62-41 defeat against Arizona State, and USC has responded well to the coaching change.
Haden has the necessary resources to pay big for USC’s next coach, and there will be plenty of candidates interested in moving to the West Coast.
But considering Orgeron’s success this year, should he get more consideration for the full-time spot?
Should USC Hire Ed Orgeron as its Next Head Coach?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
No, I don’t think Orgeron should be hired as USC’s next head coach. Anytime an interim coach takes over, it seems most teams get an extra boost in terms of energy and emotion, but that’s tough to capture the next season. That’s exactly what USC is going through now. This level of performance is what is expected out of the Trojans each year, as despite the NCAA sanctions, there’s no shortage of talent on the roster. Orgeron deserves credit for what he’s done this year, and there’s no question he’s learned a thing or two from his time at Ole Miss. However, USC can pay big and will have plenty of interested candidates at the end of the year. Maybe Orgeron can stay on staff and help bridge the transition. The next head coach at USC should be someone that’s currently coaching elsewhere - and should be someone other than Jack Del Rio.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is the only interim coach from a fired head coach I can remember that has had any success after he was promoted. I can safely say this: There aren’t many like Dabo. Perhaps in many ways Orgeron is like Dabo. He’s clearly an emotional leader, and his recruiting track record precedes him. But USC should fight the emotions of the moment and look beyond Coach O. Orgeron was one of the worst hires in recent SEC history. Even counting his 5-0 record in the Pac-12 as USC’s coach, Orgeron still has an 8-21 record in conference games in his career. The Trojans must aim higher. That said, if I’m an athletic director at a Conference USA, Mountain West or Sun Belt school, I’m reconsidering Orgeron as a head coach. That, in itself, is an amazing statement. In September, the ceiling for Orgeron seemed to be recruiting ace and defensive assistant. He should be a head coach again if he wants to be. Just not at USC.
Orgeron's doing what Lane Kiffin couldn't — get the most out of this scholarship-strapped team — and suddenly finds himself with an outside shot at a Pac-12 South title. That's quite remarkable considering where this program was back in late September when Kiffin was fired following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. Fast forward to the present and USC is 8-3 after a last-minute upset of then-No. 4 Stanford, something that no doubt thrilled the home crowd at the Coliseum. I've always been a believer in that you shouldn't fire someone if you don't have the next guy lined up and who knows, maybe athletic director Pat Haden had this succession plan in mind after all? Orgeron has been a head coach before (10-25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07) and as Kiffin's recruiting coordinator at both Tennessee and USC, he's largely responsible for the players he's now leading. With USC still dealing with NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions, maximizing the talent on the roster is critical as it relates to the Trojans' success moving forward. Orgeron has done just that since becoming the interim head coach. Why not drop the "interim" tag and see what he can do with a little more security? Besides, who else would be perfect for coaching in Los Angeles than a guy who has already proven his acting chops? After all it was Orgeron, not Nick Saban, who got more screen time in "The Bilnd Side." That's got to count for something, right?
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether it's a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the ACC to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference in Week 12.
ACC Stats to Know from Week 12
1990: The last time NC State finished with less than 10 touchdown passes in a season
With two games left this year, NC State has thrown for just eight touchdown passes. Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas have combined for just five of those scores, with receiver Rashard Smith tying Mitchell with one this year. The Wolfpack threw for at least 31 touchdown passes in three out of the last four seasons and have not had a season of fewer than 10 since 1990. With games against East Carolina and Maryland remaining, NC State should get to 10 before the final snap. However, the drop-off in production at quarterback is largely why NC State will miss out on a bowl game for the first time in three years.
7.1: Yards per carry by Duke running back Josh Snead – second in school history
An underrated cog in Duke’s turnaround this season has been the rushing attack and its offensive line. The Blue Devils have five players with at least 41 carries, including quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette. Jela Duncan and Josh Snead are the team’s top running backs, combining for 965 yards on 159 attempts. Snead has been the team’s home-run threat, averaging 7.1 yards per carry on 68 attempts. The junior ranks second in school history with a 7.1 average, with Ace Parker (1935) owning the school record at 7.4. If Snead continues to perform as he did against Miami (138 yards), he could finish 2013 with the school record in yards per carry.
257: Total yardage by Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown against Virginia Tech
The Terrapins did not put on an offensive clinic against the Hokies, as the offense managed just 319 yards on 65 plays. With a receiving corps short on options due to injuries, Maryland put the game in the hands of quarterback C.J. Brown. The senior responded by recording 257 of the Terrapins’ 319 yards. Brown’s 122 rushing yards tied his season high, while his touchdown pass against the Hokies was his first since Sept. 21 against West Virginia.
2.4: Pittsburgh’s yards per carry in its last seven games
The Panthers’ offensive line was a huge question mark coming into 2013, and this unit has struggled through the first 10 games. The Panthers have allowed 37 sacks, which ranks as the most in the ACC. Pass protection isn’t the only issue for this unit, as Pittsburgh is averaging 2.4 yards per carry in its last seven games. The Panthers rushed for only 46 yards against North Carolina and were held to -5 against Georgia Tech. Only once in ACC play this year has Pittsburgh rushed for more than 100 yards (Duke). In order for the Panthers to get bowl eligible, the offensive line and rushing attack has to perform better in the final two games.
2001: The last time North Carolina had a five-game winning streak
The Tar Heels earned their fourth consecutive victory of 2013, defeating Pittsburgh 34-27 in Week 12. The win over the Panthers moved North Carolina one step closer to bowl eligibility and improved Larry Fedora’s team to 4-3 in ACC play. The Tar Heels have won four games in a row for the second time under Fedora, and with a victory over Old Dominion this Saturday, would have their first five-game winning streak since 2001.
40: Points allowed by Miami in three consecutive losses
Miami’s three-game losing streak has likely ended any hopes the Hurricanes had of winning the Coastal Division. But that’s not all of the bad news coming out of Coral Gables for coach Al Golden. For the first time in school history, Miami has allowed at least 40 points in three consecutive games. The Hurricanes rank 11th in the ACC against the run, ninth against the pass and 10th in the conference in yards allowed. Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has coached with Golden since 2004, so there’s little reason to expect a coaching change this offseason. However, if this unit doesn’t improve in 2014, Golden may be forced to change coordinators.
12-1: Wake Forest’s record against Duke in its last 13 games
Duke’s path to a Coastal Division championship still has two difficult hurdles to clear. The Blue Devils play rival North Carolina in the season finale, while a trip to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest awaits this Saturday. Duke hasn’t had much luck in Winston-Salem recently, losing six out of its last seven trips. However, the Blue Devils won 34-27 at Wake Forest last year. A win over the Demon Deacons would move Duke one step closer to bowl eligibility, while also giving David Cutcliffe’s team a chance to win 10 games for the first time in school history.
14-10: Virginia Tech’s record over the last two years
While 14-10 represents a winning record, it’s a clear drop-off for a program that recorded at least 10 wins for eight consecutive years (2004-11). Under Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech has not recorded back-to-back seasons of fewer than eight wins since 1991-92. The Hokies are just 8-7 in ACC play over the last two years and a loss to Virginia on Nov. 30 would equal the program’s losses in conference play from 2004-08.
24: Points needed by Florida State to break single-season record by an ACC team
Florida State’s offense is on a record-setting pace this year and needs only 24 points to set an ACC record for most points scored in a season. The Seminoles set the conference mark last year, recording 550 in 14 games. But this year’s offense is on pace to shatter that mark in 2013. Florida State should easily record 24 points against Idaho this Saturday and may have 600 overall points by the bowl game.
272.7: Amount of yards Andre Williams needs to average in final three games to break NCAA single-season record
It’s probably unrealistic to expect Boston College running back Andre Williams to average 272.7 yards per game over his final three contests. But after rushing for 339 yards against NC State, anything is possible for this senior back. Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders set the single-season rushing record with 2,628 yards in 1988, and UCF’s Kevin Smith, TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson, Tulane’s Matt Forte, Penn State’s Larry Johnson, Connecticut’s Donald Brown, California’s J.J. Arrington and Rutgers’ Ray Rice are the only players since 2000 to top 2,000 yards. Williams plays Maryland and Syracuse to close out ACC play, and both teams rank near the bottom of the conference against the run. The senior will also have a bowl game to chase Sanders’ record. It’s unlikely, but Williams is on a roll and should easily top 2,000 yards.
1982: The last time Virginia won two games
Can Virginia avoid its first season of double-digit losses since 1981 this year? The Cavaliers close 2013 with a road trip to Miami, followed by a home matchup against rival Virginia Tech. Virginia desperately needs something good to happen in the final two games to build momentum for the offseason, and coach Mike London continues to get a vote of confidence from his athletic director. While London is expected to return in 2014, 2013 is shaping up to be one of Virginia’s worst seasons in recent memory. The Cavaliers are likely to finish 2-10, which is the program’s worst record since 1982. And Virginia has not lost 10 games since 1981.
117: Yards Syracuse had before its final two possessions against Florida State
Just how dominant was Florida State’s defense against Syracuse? The Orange had only one drive over 20 yards until the fourth quarter, and four of their first-half possessions resulted in a three-and-out. Once the Seminoles began to substitute on defense, Syracuse was able to move the ball more in the fourth quarter. The Orange recorded 130 yards on 31 plays on their final two drives, which was more than the 117 yards the team had through its first 11 drives.
1: Wins needed by Clemson to record three consecutive double-digit win seasons
Clemson is off to a 9-1 start and should earn victory No. 10 with a matchup against Citadel this Saturday. Even with quarterback Tajh Boyd likely less than full strength due to a collarbone injury suffered against Georgia Tech, the Tigers should have little trouble improving to 10-1. With a win over Citadel, Clemson will earn its third consecutive season of double-digit victories. That’s only the second time in program history the Tigers have accomplished this feat, as Danny Ford led Clemson to 10 wins in each season from 1987-89.
13.2: Yards per touch by Georgia Tech running back Robert Godhigh
Georgia Tech’s offense has been inconsistent at times this season, but senior Robert Godhigh has been one of the team’s most-explosive players. Godhigh is averaging 13.2 yards per touch and has seven touchdowns this year. According to Georgia Tech’s game notes, 55 percent of Godhigh’s touches have resulted in a first down or touchdown. And consider this: Godhigh is a former walk-on.
With 12 weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is starting to come into focus.
Alabama and Florida State are headed for an intriguing national championship in Pasadena - provided both teams finish the season without a loss. The Crimson Tide still has to play Auburn, while the Seminoles’ toughest game is a desperate Florida team in the Swamp or the ACC Championship.
With Stanford’s loss to USC, Oregon jumps back to projected Pac-12 champion. The Ducks are projected to play Ohio State, while Wisconsin earns a second spot for the Big Ten in our BCS picks.
Washington State’s upset win over Arizona means the Cougars are just one win away from bowl eligibility. If Mike Leach’s team can knock off Utah this week, Washington State should find a home as an at-large selection. The Pac-12 will likely have more teams bowl eligible than available spots. However, with an opening in the Poinsettia and potentially the Hawaii Bowl, the Pac-12 should be able to find spots for its bowl-eligible teams.
The bowl season doesn’t start until December, but with less than one month to go in the season, it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like.
The post-Week 12 bowl projections are a mixture between projections for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 12 weeks of action. Expect more changes over the next few weeks. With several teams projected to be right around the six-win mark, more at-large spots in bowls should open in the next month.
A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Syracuse and Utah from BCS conferences. And Texas State, Arkansas State, Ohio, FAU, ULM and Troy from the non-BCS ranks.
College Football's Post-Week 12 Bowl Projections for 2013
|New Mexico||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Colo. State vs. Oregon State|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 21||MAC vs. MWC||UNLV vs. Bowling Green|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 21||Pac-12 vs. MWC||Boise State vs. USC|
|New Orleans||Dec. 21||Sun Belt vs. CUSA||UL Lafayette vs. Tulane|
|Beef 'O' Brady's||Dec. 23||American vs. CUSA||Toledo* vs. MTSU|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||MWC vs. CUSA||SJSU vs. Rice|
|Little Caesars Pizza||Dec. 26||MAC vs. Big Ten||No. Illinois vs. Maryland*|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 26||Army vs. MWC||Utah State vs. Buffalo*|
|Military||Dec. 27||CUSA vs. ACC||E. Carolina vs. Boston College|
|Texas||Dec. 27||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||K-State vs. Iowa|
|Fight Hunger||Dec. 27||BYU vs. Pac-12||BYU vs. Washington|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 28||American vs. Big 12||Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame|
|Belk||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Houston vs. North Carolina|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 28||American vs. ACC||Louisville vs. Miami|
|Buffalo Wild Wings||Dec. 28||Big 12 vs. Big Ten||Texas vs. Michigan|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||MWC vs. Navy||Navy vs. SDSU|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia vs. Pittsburgh|
|Alamo||Dec. 30||Big 12 vs. Pac-12||Oklahoma vs. Stanford|
|Holiday||Dec. 30||Pac-12 vs. Big 12||Arizona State vs. Texas Tech|
|AdvoCare V100||Dec. 31||ACC vs. SEC||Georgia Tech vs. Arizona*|
|Sun||Dec. 31||Pac-12 vs. ACC||UCLA vs. Virginia Tech|
|Liberty||Dec. 31||SEC vs. CUSA||Tennessee vs. Marshall|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||SEC vs. ACC||South Carolina vs. Duke|
|Gator||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Ole Miss vs. Minnesota|
|Heart of Dallas||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. CUSA||North Texas vs. Washington State*|
|Outback||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Missouri vs. Nebraska|
|Capital One||Jan. 1||SEC vs. Big Ten||Michigan State vs. Texas A&M|
|Rose||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Ohio State vs. Oregon|
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||BCS vs. BCS||Fresno State vs. Baylor|
|Sugar||Jan. 2||BCS vs. BCS||Auburn vs. UCF|
|Cotton||Jan. 3||SEC vs. Big 12||LSU vs. Oklahoma State|
|Orange||Jan. 3||BCS vs. BCS||Clemson vs. Wisconsin|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 4||SEC vs. American||Vanderbilt vs. Rutgers|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 5||MAC vs. Sun Belt||Ball State vs. Western Kentucky|
|National Title||Jan. 6||BCS vs. BCS||Alabama vs. Florida State|
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill its alloted bowl slots, leaving an at-large spot available.
Bold indicates team has accepted bid to bowl.
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 12
With three weeks left in the 2013 season, college football’s coaching carousel is set to begin. There were no coaching changes over the last week, but with the end of the year coming for a few teams, expect to see more movement over the next three weekends.
Texas’ Mack Brown and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini have moved up and down the hot seat watch this season, and both are back in the top 10 after losses in Week 12. The Longhorns were easily handled by Oklahoma State, while the Cornhuskers committed five turnovers in a loss to Michigan State.
Virginia’s Mike London, Hawaii’s Norm Chow and Illinois’ Tim Beckman take the top three spots in this week’s coach on the hot seat watch. However, all three are likely to return in 2014. London has two of the nation’s top recruits headed to Virginia, and athletic director Craig Littlepage continues to give the embattled coach a vote of confidence. The Fighting Illini has made a little progress this year, but Beckman cannot afford a loss to Purdue in Week 13.
Each week, we will take a look at the hot seat/pressure on a program for all 125 coaches. Some new coaches will rank high due to poor performances but aren't in any danger of losing their job.
And another important note when reading our coach on the hot seat rankings: Outside of the top-10 coaches, it’s all about the pressure on a program. While some coaches – like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Maryland’s Randy Edsall – aren’t in any danger of being fired. However, both coaches need to continue to show the program is headed in the right direction.
Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013
|1||Mike London||2-8||All signs point to London returning for 2014.|
|2||Norm Chow||0-10||Hawaii's worst season since 1998 (0-12).|
|3||Tim Beckman||3-7||Beckman under pressure but should return for 2014.|
|5||Dave Christensen||4-6||Cowboys have lost four in a row.|
|6||Dana Holgorsen||4-7||Will miss out on bowl for the first time since 2001.|
|7||Bo Pelini||7-3||Is Pelini coaching for his job in the last two games?|
|9||Garrick McGee||2-8||Blazers have lost 119-28 in last two games.|
|10||Mack Brown||7-3||Longhorns likely out of the Big 12 title picture.|
|11||Bobby Hauck||5-5||Rebels have two winnable games remaining.|
|12||Kevin Wilson||4-6||Hoosiers need to find some answers on defense.|
|14||Will Muschamp||4-6||Will need upset over FSU to make bowl.|
|15||Charlie Weis||3-7||Win over WVU snapped 27-game Big 12 losing streak.|
|17||Dan Enos||4-6||Weak November schedule should get CMU to 6-6.|
|19||Dan Mullen||4-6||Bulldogs battled against Alabama.|
|20||Randy Edsall||6-4||Win over Va. Tech should get Terps in bowl.|
|21||June Jones||4-6||QB Garrett Gilbert quietly having good season.|
|22||Kyle Flood||5-4||Lost 3 out of last 4; Recruiting class falling apart.|
|26||Paul Petrino||1-9||Vandals play at Florida State this week.|
|31||Jim Grobe||4-6||Demon Deacons can play spoiler against Duke.|
|34||Bob Davie||3-7||Lobos could be without RB Kasey Carrier rest of year.|
|35||Dave Doeren||3-7||Wolfpack has one more chance to avoid winless ACC record.|
|37||Tony Levine||7-3||Levine having a solid second season in Houston.|
|43||Ron Caragher||5-5||Spartans need to beat Navy or Fresno to make bowl.|
|47||Steve Sarkisian||6-4||Huskies headed for another 7-6 season?|
|50||Rocky Long||6-4||Aztecs have won six out of last seven games.|
|53||Matt Rhule||1-9||Back-to-back three-point losses for Temple.|
|54||Terry Bowden||4-7||Zips have won more games in 2013 than 2010-12.|
|57||Mike Leach||5-5||Cougars picked up impressive road win over Arizona.|
|59||Frank Solich||6-4||Bobcats outscored 79-3 in last two games.|
|60||Larry Fedora||5-5||Future looks bright for Tar Heels.|
|62||Jim McElwain||6-5||Rams have won four out of last five games.|
|68||Bryan Harsin||6-4||ASU is bowl eligible for third year in a row.|
|78||Dabo Swinney||9-1||Tigers in good shape to play in BCS bowl.|
|100||James Franklin||6-4||Commodores bowl eligible for third year in a row.|
|101||Mark Dantonio||9-1||Spartans in driver's seat for Legends Division title.|
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big 12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Big Ten Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Pac-12 Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
SEC Week 12 Awards and Power Rankings
Stats to Know from Week 12
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson has been ruled out for the remainder of 2013 with a concussion. Wilson suffered the concussion against Arizona State and did not play in the loss at Oregon.
Wilson’s career is also in jeopardy, as neurological testing revealed a pre-existing condition. More will be known about Wilson’s status in the future, but the Utah signal-caller will be out for the rest of the year, forcing backup Adam Schulz into the starting lineup.
Wilson finishes 2013 with 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns, while he rushed for three scores in a 51-48 loss against Oregon State this year.
The ACC lacked a marquee game for Week 12, but there was plenty of intrigue in the six-game slate.
Duke defeated Miami 48-30 to assume sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division. The Blue Devils still have to play Wake Forest and North Carolina, but coach David Cutcliffe’s team is in the driver’s seat to play Florida State in Charlotte in early December.
North Carolina moved one step closer to bowl eligibility with a 34-27 win at Pittsburgh, while Boston College earned the all-important sixth victory by knocking off NC State 38-21.
Florida State and Clemson handled their opponents with ease, and Maryland got bowl eligible with a 27-24 upset of Virginia Tech.
The ACC had plenty of highlights from individual players in Week 12, including Duke quarterback Brandon Connette and Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd, but here are Athlon’s picks for the award winners in the conference from Saturday’s action.
ACC Week 12 Awards and Recap
Offensive Player of the Week: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
Boston College continued its impressive first season under new coach Steve Addazio, as the Eagles defeated NC State to 38-21 to improve to 6-4 overall. Williams has carried the offense this season, and the senior gashed the Wolfpack defense for 339 yards and two touchdowns. The 339 yards were an ACC single-game record. Williams has 634 yards in his last two games and has rushed for at least 166 in each of his last four contests. Even though Williams is considered a power back, he has at least one run of 56 yards or longer in each of his last four games. The senior has 1,810 yards in 2013, which is a Boston College single-season record. With three games left, Williams has a chance to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
Defensive Player of the Week: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
The Tar Heels’ defense has struggled at times this season, but this unit has played better in recent weeks, and Martin delivered the ACC’s top defensive performance in the 34-27 win at Pittsburgh. The senior wrecked havoc on the Panthers’ young offensive line, recording eight tackles (three tackles for a loss), 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Martin recovered one fumble, picked up two quarterback hurries and broke up one pass. After 10 games, Martin has 10 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss and ranks second among Tar Heel defenders in tackles.
Team of the Week: Duke
After 12 weeks, Duke is stands alone atop the ACC Coastal standings. No, that’s not a misprint. Under coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have made significant improvement over the last two seasons, and after a 48-30 victory over Miami, Duke is on the doorstep of its first ACC Championship appearance. The Blue Devils rallied from a 17-7 deficit after the first quarter to lead 21-20 at halftime. Miami led 30-28 late in the third quarter, but Duke owned the final quarter, scoring 17 unanswered points to close out the victory. With a struggling passing attack, the Blue Devils turned to their ground game. Four players recorded at least seven carries, including quarterback Brandon Connette (37 yards, four touchdowns), and Shaquille Powell, who scored on a 33-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. By beating Miami, Duke earned its 14 win in its last two years, which is more than the program recorded from 1999-2007.
Coordinator of the Week: Kurt Roper, Duke
Largely due to the play of their offense, the Blue Devils assumed control of the Coastal Division with a 48-30 win over Miami on Saturday. With Anthony Boone struggling in recent weeks, Roper and coach David Cutcliffe turned to a two-quarterback system and the ground attack to beat the Hurricanes. Boone completed 11 of 15 passes (with no interceptions), while backup Brandon Connette threw for 81 yards and one touchdown and added four touchdowns on 11 rushing attempts. The Blue Devils gashed Miami for 358 yards, with Josh Snead (15.3 ypc) leading the way. The 358 yards were the most under Cutcliffe, while the five rushing touchdowns were the most since 2010.
Freshman of the Week: Ryan Switzer, WR, UNC
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was solid once again in the blowout win over Syracuse, but North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer edges Winston for the freshman of the week honor. The freshman didn’t make much of an impact on offense, catching just two passes for 21 yards. However, Switzer returned two punts for touchdowns, including one for 61 yards with less than five minutes remaining, which proved to be the game-winning score for North Carolina.
ACC Post-Week 12 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||This Week||Next Week|
|1||10-0, 8-0||W, Syracuse 59-3||Idaho|
|2||9-1, 7-1||W, Georgia Tech 55-31||Citadel|
|3||8-2, 4-2||W, Miami 48-30||at Wake Forest|
|4||7-3, 3-3||L, Duke 48-30||Virginia|
|5||7-4, 4-3||L, Maryland 27-24||Bye Week|
|6||6-4, 5-3||L, Clemson 55-31||Alabama A&M|
|7||5-5, 4-3||W, Pittsubrgh 34-27||Old Dominion|
|8||6-4, 3-3||W, NC State 38-21||at Maryland|
|9||5-5, 2-4||L, North Carolina 34-27||at Syracuse|
|10||5-5, 3-3||L, Florida State 59-3||Pittsburgh|
|11||6-4, 2-4||W, Virginia Tech 27-24||Boston College|
|12||4-6, 2-5||Bye Week||Duke|
|13||3-7, 0-7||L, Boston College 38-21||East Carolina|
|14||2-8, 0-6||Bye Week||at Miami|
Texas Tech receiver Eric Ward gave the Red Raiders a 21-7 lead over Baylor with this nifty one-handed grab on Saturday:
College football has produced its share of awesome catches in 2013, but UCF’s J.J. Worton might have made the grab of the year against Temple in Week 12.
Worton’s touchdown catch might have saved the Knights’ BCS bowl hopes, as this score allowed UCF to tie the game and eventually kick the game winning field goal on the next drive.
Oklahoma started slow but finished fast in Saturday’s 48-10 win over Iowa State.
The Sooners had a few highlights on the field, but the best play of the day might be a tackle by a state trooper. A fan ran onto the field and was completely blindsided by the state trooper.
Perfect form on the tackle, and most importantly, he avoided the dreaded 15-yard penalty and ejection for targeting.
Illinois’ lost its 20th straight Big Ten game, dropping a 60-35 matchup to Ohio State. As if the losing wasn’t enough, head coach Tim Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit had to be separated following an argument on the sidelines.
Of course, things like this happen all of the time during the season, but Beckman is on the hot seat, and this is another bad moment in his tenure.
ILLINI COACHES HAVING WORDS pic.twitter.com/UEU7gTH8hM— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) November 16, 2013
Washington quarterback Keith Price was forced to exit Friday’s loss to UCLA with a shoulder injury, and his status for next week’s game against Oregon State is uncertain.
Price’s x-ray was negative, but the senior will have a MRI performed to discover the extend of the injury.
Price left during the first half, but prior to his injury, the senior completed 10 of 18 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown.
In his absence, Cyler Miles completed 15 of 22 throws for 149 yards and two touchdowns. If Price cannot play, Miles would get the start next week.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was sharp in Thursday night’s win over Georgia Tech, completing 20 of 26 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns. Boyd also added 43 yards and one score on the ground.
However, Boyd was injured in the third quarter and did not return to the game.
The senior suffered a bruised sternum and collarbone but avoided a significant injury.
Boyd has some extra time to heal before Clemson’s Nov. 23 scrimmage against Citadel.
Even if Boyd isn’t 100 percent, next Saturday is his final home game and should see a handful of snaps before giving way to Chad Kelly and Cole Stoudt.
Clemson has two weeks to get Boyd healthy for the Nov. 30 showdown against South Carolina.
It’s been a long season for Tim Beckman and Illinois, but the Fighting Illini unveiled some sharp alternate helmets for Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
The helmets feature the outline of the state, with 10 stars representing 10 players who died in combat.
Here are the Illinois’ alternate helmets for Saturday’s game against Ohio State:
SMU plans to wear an alternate helmet for Saturday’s game against UConn, as the Mustangs will switch from a white to red scheme.
Here are the SMU helmets for Saturday’s game against the Huskies:
Here's a look at SMU's helmets for Sat pic.twitter.com/0UGV0yLeBj— Bill Nichols (@BillNicholsDMN) November 15, 2013
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry takes center stage on Saturday, as Georgia travels to Auburn in a pivotal SEC contest. The Bulldogs need to win to keep their SEC East title hopes alive, while the Tigers are riding a six-game winning streak and a victory over Georgia would keep their BCS bowl hopes intact.
The Bulldogs have been hit hard by injuries this year, but Mark Richt’s team received some reinforcements in recent weeks. Running back Todd Gurley played against Florida on Nov. 2, and receiver Michael Bennett also returned to the lineup against the Gators. Two more of quarterback Aaron Murray’s targets may also return against Auburn, as receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch are expected to be game-time decisions.
After a miserable 3-9 record last year, Auburn is still alive in the SEC West, largely due to the hire of Gus Malzahn. The Tigers need to beat Georgia on Saturday to setup a one-game showdown with Alabama for the division title.
The all-time series between Auburn and Georgia is tied at 54 with eight ties. The Bulldogs have won six out of the last seven in this series. The Tigers’ last victory against Georgia was in 2010. The last two matchups between these two teams have been a one-sided affair in favor of the Bulldogs (83-7).
Georgia at Auburn
Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Auburn -3
Three Things to Watch
Auburn’s rushing offense vs. Georgia’s rush defense
Auburn’s rushing attack is averaging 278.5 yards per game and has recorded over 400 yards in two out of the last three contests. The Tigers barely used the forward pass in wins over Arkansas and Tennessee, combining for just 16 attempts in those two games. Can that continue on Saturday? Auburn likely needs more balance to beat Georgia, especially since the Bulldogs rank fourth in SEC-only games against the run, limiting opponents to 149.7 yards per contest. Georgia has allowed 15 touchdowns in six SEC games but is holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per carry. Running back Tre Mason leads the Tigers with 1,038 yards and 16 touchdowns. But the Auburn backfield isn’t a one-man show, with quarterback Nick Marshall (7.1 ypc), and running backs Cameron Artis-Payne (6.6 ypc) and Corey Grant (10.1 ypc) expected to get involved. Expect the Bulldogs to stack the box and force the Tigers out of their gameplan.
Aaron Murray’s supporting cast
A key element in Georgia’s losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt were the rash of injuries on offense. Over the last few weeks, the Bulldogs’ injury report has shortened, and quarterback Aaron Murray has a few more weapons at his disposal. Running back Todd Gurley is one of the best in the nation when healthy, and the sophomore has rushed for 175 yards on 30 attempts in his last two games. After a light workload against Appalachian State, Gurley should be closer to full strength. Gurley’s return is huge for an offense that is still shorthanded at receiver, but Michael Bennett is back, and receivers Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch are likely to be gametime decisions. Assuming Conley and Lynch can play, the Bulldogs will have a solid group of options for Murray. However, if Conley and Lynch are limited in any way, Auburn’s defense can shade more of its attention in the secondary on Bennett.
Auburn QB Nick Marshall
In his first year as Auburn’s starting quarterback, Marshall hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s the perfect fit to run Gus Malzahn’s offense. Marshall is only averaging 139 passing yards in SEC games and has tossed five picks to six interceptions. However, the junior has been dynamic on the ground, averaging 7.2 yards per carry in conference play. Marshall only completed three passes against Tennessee, but he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts. In Auburn’s only loss this year, Marshall threw 33 times and tossed two picks. The Tigers are clearly at their best on offense when the ground attack is able to lead the way. If Auburn falls behind, can Marshall pass the offense back into the game?
Key Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
It’s a small sample size, but Georgia is 4-0 this season when Gurley rushes for at least 73 yards this year. Even if Gurley may not be 100 percent, his presence is a huge boost for the Bulldogs. The sophomore helps provide balance, and caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Murray against Florida. In six conference games, Auburn is allowing an average of 189.2 rushing yards per game. Gurley should be able to find space against the Tigers’ defense, and the Bulldogs should plan to give their sophomore back 25-30 carries.
Week 12 isn’t full of elite matchups, but Auburn-Georgia should be one of the best this Saturday. Both teams have a lot on the line, and with the firepower on the sidelines, a high-scoring affair should be expected. Auburn’s rushing offense has been on fire the last few weeks, but quarterback Nick Marshall will have to throw more for the Tigers to win on Saturday. This one is a tossup, with home-field advantage giving Auburn a slight edge.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Georgia 31